By Carol Salter—The longer I have been commissioned as a Notary Public, the more I am called upon as a verifier of one’s identity. In this age of identity theft, illegal immigration, terrorism-shadowed world travel and just overall heightened alertness, the Notary has been called upon to verify identity.

What types of documents require identity verification? I see many who are traveling to foreign countries. Some countries are requiring additional identity verification. Those who do business in foreign countries also find cumbersome documentation that requires notarizing. In some states, there is a requirement of a birth certificate be notarized to qualify for financial aid for health care services.

The importance of identity verification can not be over stated. Many of us know people who spend years trying to recover from stolen identity. Recovery not only of a financial nature, but of personal reputation is arduous and frustrating. My debit card number was stolen on a ski trip last year, and even though good protection was in place, it was time consuming to register disputes of charges, change card numbers, etc.

I am amazed at how easily one can illegally obtain a Social Security Number from the Internet. This Social Security Number is then used to get a legitimate driver’s license. As the driver’s license is one way of verifying identity, it can make the Notary’s job difficult.

So, how can a Notary verify identity? First and foremost, the Notary must be alert to any subtle nuances that may be present. Does the signature in the journal match the one on the driver’s license? Has the driver’s license been altered or tampered with in any way? Is the license expired or does the picture match the owner? The key is being alert. Keep a sharp eye on the signer and their supporting documentation. If you feel the signer has stolen identity, you may refuse the notarization. Just make sure you document in your journal why the notarization was not performed. By the way, even if a journal is not a requirement in your State, a good Notary Public will keep a journal of all notarial acts and those not performed as well. It is for your own protection.

Let this be a reminder to all notaries in every notarization to perform due diligence in verifying identity and to keep the signer and you safe.